The rage against red America is so strong that The New York Time’s predictably progressive Nick Kristoff says his calls to understand red voters were “my most unpopular idea.” The essential logic—as laid out in a particularly acerbic piece in The New Republic—is that Trump’s America is not only socially deplorable, but economically moronic as well. The kind-hearted blue staters have sent their industries to the abodes of the unwashed, and taken in their poor, only to see them end up “more bitter, white, and alt-right than ever.”
The red states, by electing Trump, seem to have lost any claim on usually wide-ranging progressive empathy. Frank Rich, theater critic turned pundit, turns up his nose at what he calls “hillbilly chic.” Another leftist author suggests that working-class support for Brexit and Trump means it is time “to dissolve” the “more than 150-year-old alliance between the industrial working class and what one might call the intellectual-cultural Left.”
The fondest hope among the blue bourgeoise lies with the demographic eclipse of their red-state foes. Some clearly hope that the less-educated “dying white America,“ already suffering shorter lifespans, in part due to alcoholism and opioid abuse, is destined to fade from the scene. Then the blue lords can take over a country with which they can identify without embarrassment.
Marie Antoinette Economics
In seeking to tame their political inferiors, the blue bourgeoisie are closer to the Marie Antoinette school of political economy than any traditional notion of progressivism. They might seek to give the unwashed red masses “cake” in the form of free health care and welfare, but they don’t offer more than a future status as serfs of the cognitive aristocracy. The blue bourgeoisie, notes urban analyst Aaron Renn, are primary beneficiaries of “the decoupling of success in America.” In blue America, he notes, the top tiers “no longer need the overall prosperity of the country to personally do well. They can become enriched as a small, albeit sizable, minority.”
Some on the left recognize the hypocrisy of progressives’ abandoning the toiling masses. “Blue state secession is no better an idea than Confederate secession was,” observes one progressive journalist. “The Confederates wanted to draw themselves into a cocoon so they could enslave and exploit people. The blue state secessionists want to draw themselves into a cocoon so they can ignore the exploited people of America.”
Ironically, many of the most exploited people reside in blue states and cities. Both segregation and impoverishment has worsened during the decades-long urban “comeback,” as even longtime urban enthusiast Richard Florida now notes. Chicago, with its soaring crime rates and middle class out-migration, amidst a wave of elite corporate relocations, epitomizes the increasingly unequal tenor of blue societies.
In contrast the most egalitarian places, like Utah, tend to be largely Trump-friendly. Among the 10 states (and D.C.) with the most income inequality, seven supported Clinton in 2016, while seven of the 10 most equal states supported Trump.
If you want to see worst impacts of blue policies, go to those red regions—like upstate New York—controlled by the blue bourgeoise. Backwaters like these tend to be treated at best as a recreational colony that otherwise can depopulate, deindustrialize, and in general fall apart. In California, much of the poorer interior is being left to rot by policies imposed by a Bay Area regime hostile to suburban development, industrial growth, and large scale agriculture. Policies that boost energy prices 50 percent above neighboring states are more deeply felt in regions that compete with Texas or Arizona and are also far more dependent on air conditioning than affluent, temperate San Francisco or Malibu. Six of the 10 highest unemployment rates among the country’s metropolitan areas are in the state’s interior.
Basic Errors in Geography
The blue bourgeoisie’s self-celebration rests on multiple misunderstandings of geography, demography, and economics. To be sure, the deep blue cites are vitally important but it’s increasingly red states, and regions, that provide critical opportunities for upward mobility for middle- and working-class families.
The dominant blue narrative rests on the idea that the 10 largest metropolitan economies represents over one-third of the national GDP. Yet this hardly proves the superiority of Manhattan-like density; the other nine largest metropolitan economies are, notes demographer Wendell Cox, slightly more suburban than the national major metropolitan area average, with 86 percent of their residents inhabiting suburban and exurban areas.
In some of our most dynamic urban regions, such as Phoenix, virtually no part of the region can be made to fit into a Manhattan-, Brooklyn-, or even San Francisco-style definition of urbanity. Since 2010 more than 80 percent of all new jobs in our 53 leading metropolitan regions have been in suburban locations. The San Jose area, the epicenter of the “new economy,” may be congested but it is not traditionally urban—most people there live in single-family houses, and barely 5 percent of commuters take transit. Want to find dense urbanity in San Jose? You’ll miss it if you drive for more than 10 minutes.
The argument made by the blue bourgeoisie is simple: Dense core cities, and what goes on there, is infinitely more important, and consequential, than the activities centered in the dumber suburbs and small towns. Yet even in the ultra-blue Bay Area, the suburban Valley’s tech and STEM worker population per capita is twice that of San Francisco. In southern California, suburban Orange County has over 30 percent more STEM workers per capita than far more urban Los Angeles.
And it’s not just California. Seattle’s suburban Bellevue and Redmond are home to substantial IT operations, including the large Microsoft headquarters facility. Much of Portland’s Silicon Forest is located in suburban Washington County. Indeed a recent Forbes study found that the fastest-growing areas for technology jobs outside the Bay Area are all cities without much of an urban core: Charlotte, Raleigh Durham, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Detroit. In contrast most traditionally urban cities such as New York and Chicago have middling tech scenes, with far fewer STEM and tech workers per capita thanthe national average.
The blue bourgeois tend to see the activities that take place largely in the red states—for example manufacturing and energy—as backward sectors. Yet manufacturers employ most of the nation’s scientists and engineers. Regions in Trump states associated with manufacturing as well as fossil fuels—Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Salt Lake—enjoy among the heaviest concentrations of STEM workers and engineers in the country, far above New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
Besides supplying the bulk of the food, energy, and manufactured goods consumed in blue America, these industries are among the country’s most productive, and still offer better paying options for blue-collar workers. Unlike a monopoly like Microsoft or Google, which can mint money by commanding market share, these sectors face strong domestic and foreign competition. From 1997-2012, labor productivity growth in manufacturing—3.3 percent per year—was a third higher than productivity growth in the private economy overall.
For its part, the innovative American energy sector has essentially changed the balance of power globally, overcoming decades of dependence on such countries as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela. Agriculture—almost all food, including in California, is grown in red-oriented areas—continues to outperform competitors around the world.
Exports? In 2015, the U.S. exported $2.23 trillion worth of goods and services combined. Of the total, only $716.4 billion, or about a third, consisted of services.In contrast, manufactured goods accounted for 50 percent of all exports.Intellectual property payments, like royalties to Silicon Valley tech companies and entrepreneurs, amounted to $126.5 billion—just 18 percent of service exports and less than 6 percent of total exports of goods and services combined, barely even with agriculture.
Migration and the American Future
The blue bourgeoisie love to say “everyone” is moving back to the city; a meme amplified by the concentration of media in fewer places and the related collapse of local journalism. Yet in reality, except for a brief period right after the 2008 housing crash, people have continued to move away from dense areas.
Indeed the most recent estimates suggest that last year was the best for suburban areas since the Great Recession. In 2012, the suburbs attracted barely 150,000 more people than core cities but in 2016 the suburban advantage was 556,000. Just 10 of the nation’s 53 largest metropolitan regions (including San Francisco, Boston, and Washington) saw their core counties gain more people than their suburbs and exurbs.
Overall, people are definitively not moving to the most preferred places for cosmopolitan scribblers. Last year, all 10 of the top gainers in domestic migration were Sun Belt cities. The list was topped by Austin, a blue dot in its core county, surrounded by a rapidly growing, largely red Texas sea, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, and Jacksonville in Florida, Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Antonio.
Overall, domestic migration trends affirm Trump-friendly locales. In 2016, states that supported Trump gained a net of 400,000 domestic migrants from states that supported Clinton. This includes a somewhat unnoticed resurgence of migration to smaller cities, areas often friendly to Trump and the GOP. Domestic migration has accelerated to cities between with populations between half a million and a million people, while it’s been negative among those with populations over a million. The biggest out-migration now takes place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.
Of course, for the blue cognoscenti, there’s only one explanation for such moves: Those people are losers and idiots. This is part of the new blue snobbery: Bad people, including the poor, are moving out to benighted places like Texas but the talented are flocking in. Yet, like so many comfortable assertions, this one does not stand scrutiny. It’s the middle class, particularly in their childbearing years, who, according to IRS data, are moving out of states like California and into ones like Texas. Since 2000, the Golden State has seen a net outflow of $36 billion dollars from migrants.
Millennials are widely hailed as the generation that will never abandon the deep blue city, but as they reach their thirties, they appear to be following their parents to the suburbs and exurbs, smaller cities, and the Sun Belt. This assures us that the next generation of Americans are far more likely to be raised in Salt Lake City, Atlanta, the four large Texas metropolitan areas, or in suburbs, than in the bluest metropolitan areas like New York, Seattle, or San Francisco—where the number of school-age children trends well below the national average.
This shift is being driven in large part by unsustainable housing costs. In the Bay Area, techies are increasingly looking for jobs outside the tech hub and some companies are even offering cash bonuses to those willing to leave. A recent poll indicated that 46 percent of millennials in the San Francisco Bay Area want to leave. The numbers of the “best and brightest” have been growing mostly in lower-cost regions such as Austin, Orlando, Houston, Nashville, and Charlotte.
Quality of Life: The Eye of the Beholder
Ultimately, in life as well as politics, people make choices of where to live based on economic realities. This may not apply entirely to the blue bourgeoisie, living at the top of the economic food chain or by dint of being the spawn of the wealthy. But for most Americans aspiring to a decent standard of living—most critically, the acquisition of decent living space—the expensive blue city simply is not practicable.
Indeed, when the cost of living is taken into consideration, most blue areas, except for San Jose/Silicon Valley, where high salaries track the prohibitive cost of living, provide a lower standard of living. People in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, and Detroit actually made more on their paychecks than those in New York, San Francisco, or Boston. Deep-blue Los Angeles ranked near the bottom among the largest metropolitan areas.
These mundanities suggest that the battlegrounds for the future will not be of the blue bourgeoisie’s choosing but in suburbs, particularly around the booming periphery of major cities in red states. Many are politically contestable, often the last big “purple” areas in an increasingly polarized country. In few of these kinds of areas do you see 80 to 90 percent progressive or conservative electorates; many split their votes and a respectable number went for Trump and the GOP. If the blue bourgeoisie want to wage war in these places, they need to not attack the suburban lifestyles clearly preferred by the clear majority.
Blue America can certainly win the day if this administration continues to falter, proving all the relentless aspersions of its omnipresent critics. But even if Trump fails to bring home the bacon to his supporters, the progressives cannot succeed until they recognize that most Americans cannot, and often do not want to, live the blue bourgeoisie’s preferred lifestyle.
It’s time for progressives to leave their bastions and bubbles, and understand the country that they are determined to rule.
The story of the voluptuous movie star Marlene Dietrich committing adultery with the conscience of America, the CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow, should feed our obsessions with sex, celebrity and cynicism -- but it won’t.
This was no mere fling between Airhead Beauty and Brainiac Beast. Both were principled superheroes who helped make America great in the 1940s and 1950s.
Seemingly, two opposites attracted. She was famous for her looks; he was famous for his voice. She crossbred Weimar Berlin decadence with Hollywood glamour; he crossbred log cabin values with snappy New York media sensibilities. She set tongues wagging, as a breathy, exotic, high-cheek-boned movie star, with a flair for men’s tuxedoes, married men, and unmarried women; he sent radio listeners, then television viewers, soaring, as a courageous, silver-tongued reporter, with a flair for vivid phrases, dramatic moments, and moral crusades.
However, Dietrich was smarter than she looked, and Murrow, more superficial than he appeared. Nevertheless, both fought heroically on that critical World War II battlefield, the homefront. Despite being German, Dietrich repudiated Adolf Hitler, only to be denounced by fellow Germans as a traitor. As CBS’s man in London during the Nazi blitzkrieg, Murrow helped Americans feel the British fears, while stoking fury against German aggression.
Born in Germany in 1901, married to Rudolf Sieber when she was 22, Marlene Dietrich conquered Hollywood with the cinematic genius Josef von Sternberg in The Blue Angel (1930). Their collaboration made her as big a star as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart – all of whom would be her co-stars and rumored lovers. Like them, Dietrich conjured an on-screen persona so vivid it created or dominated a cultural type – in her case, the vampy femme fatale, naughty but irresistible. Dietrich’s smoldering sexuality appealed to straights who fantasized about being her or being with her, and gays who worshiped her butchy femininity.
The carnality she contained – just barely – on screen – burst forth in her personal life. Although she would remain married to her husband for 53 years until he died in 1976, she was compulsively unfaithful. She romped with men and women, with the unfamous – but mostly the outrageously famous, including Edith Piaf, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Barbara Stanwyck, Maurice Chevalier, Marlon Brando, and… Edward R. Murrow, born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek, North Carolina, in 1908.
In the 1930s, Murrow, who was now Edward, worked for the International Institute of Education, resettling more than 300 mostly Jewish academics in America. Meanwhile, Dietrich was spurning Hitler’s offers of big money to return to Germany, only to see her films banned there. She also helped German Jewish friends escape Hitler,
While demonstrating the imperious Dietrich’s decency, World War II made Murrow’s career. Having landed a job with CBS in 1935, he ended up dispatched to London two years later.This journalistic novice stumbled into covering Hitler’s invasion of Austria, because, thanks to a chartered airplane, he was there.Thereafter, while leading “Murrow’s Boys,” crackerjack correspondents, he became the voice of America in London, starting with his signature line, “This … is London” – and later ending with “Good night, and good luck.” As bombs fell, he remained outside, broadcasting, with blasts punctuating his colorful compelling chronicles.Murrow helped awaken Americans’ moral responsibility to fight the Nazis. He, too, created an American cliché: the intrepid reporter in trenchcoat and homburg, cigarette dangling from his lips, reporting breaking developments so worried families could track their soldiers with pins in maps.
Dietrich raised morale, entertaining more than half-a-million troops, fundraising for war bonds, food drives, and hospitals, and recording anti-Nazi propaganda pieces in her raspy, breathy, German.Germans so reviled this traitor that even when she performed there in 1960 many yelled “Marlene Go Home.” “The Germans and I no longer speak the same language,” she sniffed.
After the war, Murrow’s legend as a fighter for freedom flourished. His radio show “Hear It Now,” became televised after 1951 as “See It Now,” enabling Murrow to do for TV news what he did for radio journalism. His moment came in 1954, when he mocked Joseph McCarthy, the demagogic anti-Communist crusader who crushed reputations as easily as Murrow crushed out the sixty cigarettes he smoked daily. It was on this career high that the married Murrow, who had frolicked with Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law Pamela (later Harriman) while in London, dallied with Dietrich, the German goddess.
They may have met when Murrow recorded a prologue to the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days in which Dietrich appeared. They definitely met through David Ben-Gurion’s aide (and Jerusalem’s future mayor) Teddy Kollek, who took credit for introducing them. Both had learned from the Holocaust to support Israel enthusiastically.
Maria Riva, Dietrich’s daughter, wrote a too-vivid tell all sneering that Murrow appeared “in the bed recently vacated by his friend Adali Stevenson.” She added: “brilliant men infatuated with Dietrich were … nothing new.” It reflected “My mother’s need to continually prove to herself and others that she was more than just a movie star.”
Still, Dietrich had a push-pull with these egghead Romeos. Riva recalls her mother griping about how Murrow “walks around the apartment with nothing on except those underpants that flap – like the kind that old men wear and with his cigarette, of course.” Such descriptions were not what Murrow wanted people imagining when inviting viewers to “See it Now.”
In full Diva, Dietrich derided a Murrow gift as “Little-itsy-bitsypearlywhirlies … five-and-ten cent store” merchandise. She demanded “a beautiful desk” – and got it. Meanwhile, she shuttled between Murrow, Frank Sinatra, and Yul Brynner, at least. “Between lovers,” her daughter reports, “she visited my father.”
Murrow died tragically, too young, in 1965 only 57. Dietrich died tragically, too old and forgotten after a decade as a recluse, in 1992 at 90.
Americans like their heroes served up perfectly. In the 1950s, our grandparents achieved this illusion by overlooking -- or being shielded from -- role models’ indiscretions. Thus, they could worship Marlene Dietrich, Edward Murrow, and others of “The Greatest Generation” as godlike characters who saved humanity from Nazi hell. Since the 1960s, we define people by their worst not their best. Traditionally, watching supposedly godlike creatures do godlike things reduced us to spectators, feeling too flawed to compete with them. Today, with those undertaking godlike challenges seen as flawed, and thus grandiose, we become cynics, paralyzed by smugness.
The Dietrich-Murrow affair teaches that great people aren’t always good. Appreciating their flaws helps appreciate the effort in overcoming them to act on principle, inspiring us to stretch, to overcome our own imperfections, and try perfecting the world, as they did.
This is not your first time at the rodeo. Oh, wait, perhaps it is.
If you’ve made the decision to take the plunge and buy art, congratulations. As you’re likely overwhelmed, we asked art dealers, auction-house officials, and collectors to suggest strategies for picking “entry points”—relatively inexpensive ways to collect pieces by name artists, or by lesser-known artists of good repute (or with a cult following), in various schools and movements of art.
We got an earful. The resounding message was, as summed up by AcquavellaGallery director Michael Findlay, is that it’s always better to buy a great example of something by a not-quite-superstar, or a work that’s been overlooked due to its subject matter, than to buy a bad “autograph”—a work that has mostly the artist’s fame to recommend it.
Look for the Cults, the Teachers of the Great Artists, the Formative Scenes of Art History
When I advise entry-level collectors, says Dan Lienau, director of the Annex Galleries in Santa Rosa, California, “I suggest looking at the incredible array of printmakers who worked at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris and New York” in the 1930s-'50s. The subject of a current show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Breaking Ground: Printmaking in the US," with other museum shows in the works, “they influenced every printmaker working today,” he says.
Hayter, first a Surrealist and later working in abstraction, founded the Atelier in Europe and then moved it to New York. Hundreds of artists went through Atelier 17, according to Lienau, “from the big names like Miró, Picasso, Motherwell—who were there and did their own printing at this point, they didn’t just come in to sign the prints—to the teachers who went on to found printmaking departments in universities” throughout the world. A color etching by Hayter himself might sell for as little as $1,500.
MoMA didn’t buy many works by women artists early in the last century, but in 1946 the institution purchased Liquor Store Window by the charmingly named Fannie Hillsmith. Many pioneering women artists are being given a second look as art history is re-sifted with less of gender bias, and Hillsmith is certainly one of the artists being reconsidered, having shown early in her career at Peggy Guggenheim’s legendary Art of This Century Gallery, and with the influential dealer Sydney Janis. An American Cubist from New Hampshire, later in life she taught at Cornell and could count critic Clement Greenberg as a fan. New York’s Susan Teller gallery carries circa-1940’s drawings by the artist for less than $1,000.
Choose a Lesser-Known—But Not Uncharacteristic—Work by a Great Artist
Albrecht Dürer was the leading figure of Late Gothic and High Renaissance German art, and “he remains after 500 years—like Rembrandt, Goya, and Picasso—one of the superior masters of printmaking,” says New York dealer Pia Gallo. Dürer’s engravings, particularly his three Meisterstiche (“master engravings”) Knight, Death, and the Devil; Melencolia I; and St. Jerome in His Study, have been collected for centuries, adds Gallo. And it’s the case that almost every major art museum has an impression of at least one of his three best-known prints.
“But to purchase an early impression of any of Dürer’s three master engravings in very good condition would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars today,” says Gallo. Dürer’s St Paul had been engraved the same year, maintaining the same level of technical virtuosity, imagination, and skill. A very fine early impression can be acquired for less than $10,000.” The lesson here applies to contemporary art as well, such as with the much-lauded but still lower-priced photography of Ed Ruscha.
One of the most buzzed-about public art installations of recent years (or at least outdoor-art installations) currently sits atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Transitional Object (Psycho Barn) by Cornelia Parker. Her recreation of the spooky film set from the 1960 Hitchcock movie prompts London’s Alan Cristea, of the gallery that bears his name, to suggest works by the artist. Her 2015 print series, “one day this glass will break,” in small editions of 15, cost about $3,700 apiece.
Senior advises collectors to bet on Bruce Conner. “An iconic figure and influential artist on the West Coast and beyond, he’ll be the subject of a traveling retrospective” organized by SFMoMA and opening at the Museum of Modern Art in July, she says.
While Conner’s drawings can easily reach $50,000 his "#100" prints series, published by the artist in 1971 and “relating to the felt-tip drawings he was making at the time,” are “very accessibly priced.”
Buy Work by Artists Trying to Say Something Timely and Important—Especially If Important People Are Listening
Art with passion and politics is rarely dismissed as decorative. Barack Obama collects work by Glenn Ligon. Why not you?
“Glenn Ligon’s paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture explore cultural and social identity and draw freely from literary and pop-cultural sources,” notes Betsy Senior, founder and director of New York veteran print shop Shopmaker and Senior.
The pick: His text-based etchings. “Phrases are repeated until eventually dissipating into obscurity. Smudged and broken type interferes with legibility, suggesting the viewer’s liberal and intellectual struggle to read the [text] and understand its implications.”
Find 20th-Century Artists Likely to Remain in the Art History Books, and Buy Their Current or Late Works
Late works are almost always cheaper than ones done in what is considered to be the artist’s prime, sometimes for good reason. The artist may be repeating his or her own ideas, or producing work with less skill and energy.
But once an artist is firmly in the canon, scholars start looking at the whole career, and late works by Picasso, Matisse, and de Kooning are now embraced.
Finally: Do Your Research If You Want to Find Deals
Findlay, the director of Acquavella Gallery, is experienced in selling eight-figure art but reels off a host of “cheap” works he found when he was researching his upcoming book on collecting art, including "small paper sculptures by Isama Noguchi and Polaroids by Tina Barney for under $100; sculpture by Rebecca Warren and good prints by Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, and John Baldessari in the $250-$1,000 range.”
There were “under $5,000, small paintings by Ray Parker, Christo collages, and multiples by Jean Arp; under $10,000, a unique wall relief sculpture from 1969 by Gerald Laing, granite sculpture by Brazilian Iran do Espiritu Santo, and photographs by Jim Naughton, paintings by Jules Olitski, and Leon Golub. Obviously you are not going to get large major works but you can get good examples, not atypical.”
He concludes that, even without a lot of money, “You can collect art.”